Assaulting a police officer or another type of official such as a customs officer, sheriff, or prison officer is an indictable offence.
This means that it can be dealt with either in the local court before a magistrate, or in the district court in front of a judge, or a judge and jury.
If you are convicted of assaulting an officer, you face up to five years in prison.
Under certain circumstances, for example if an officer is injured as a result of the assault, the penalty increases.
The courts tend to treat offences committed against police or other officers harshly, due to the view that it is important to deter other people from committing similar offences.
This can mean that defendants are not always treated as fairly as they could be in these matters.
If you have been charged with assault against a police officer, it’s important that you speak to a good criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Your lawyer can help you present a strong case if you choose to plead not guilty.
They can also fight to have the case dropped.
If you plead guilty, your lawyer will work to help you get a more lenient penalty by presenting any contributing factors or mitigating circumstances to the judge or magistrate.
What will I be charged with?
There are two main charges that are used for defendants who are alleged to have assaulted police officers.
S58 of the Crimes Act covers assaults on a wide range of different officers, not just police.
Section 60 deals more specifically with offences against police officers.
Section 58 assault charges include any assault directly on an officer with the intention of causing them physical harm, or as a means of obstructing them from carrying out their job, or lawfully detaining a person.
Although it comes with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, the penalty can be as much as seven years if the prosecution can prove that the assault was aggravated.
Aggravating factors can include the intention of the alleged offender, the way the assault was carried out, or the consequences.
Section 60 of the Crimes Act covers a range of different offences against police officers.
These include assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, wounding, and harassment and intimidation.
Assault against a police officer comes with a five-year prison sentence, and this can increase to up to 14 years for assault occasioning grievous bodily harm against a police officer.
The penalties are also more severe if the alleged assault happens during a public disorder incident.
Recent proposed changes to legislation as a result of the publicity surrounding alcohol-fuelled violence will result in mandatory sentencing for people convicted of assaulting a police officer during a public disorder incident, or in a public place while under the influence of alcohol.
The changes are due to go before NSW Parliament this week.
If passed, the legislation will increase the maximum penalty for the Section 60 offences of assaulting a police officer leading to GBH and reckless wounding to 16 years’ imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
What does the prosecution need to prove?
In order to be convicted of assaulting a police officer, the prosecution has to be able to prove that you assaulted the alleged victim, and that the officer was carrying out their duty at the time.
Assault against a police officer can also include assaults carried out in retaliation for an officer’s actions while they were on duty, or carried out against them because they are a police officer, even if they aren’t on duty at the time of the alleged incident.
What are the defences to assaulting an officer?
If you intend to plead not guilty to charges of assaulting an officer, your defence will depend on the circumstances surrounding the alleged assault.
There are a number of common defences to assault charges, which may apply in your situation. These include:
- Self-defence. If you can provide evidence to show that the alleged assault took place as an act of self-defence, this can be a valid defence against a conviction.
- The police officer was not acting in execution of their duty. If you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officer wasn’t executing their duty at the time of the alleged assault, and that the alleged assault was not connected to their role as a police officer, it may be possible to have charges withdrawn or reduced.
If you are facing charges of assaulting an officer, it’s important to speak to a lawyer and obtain legal advice.
It is possible to defend yourself against Section 58 and Section 60 charges, and your lawyer can help you prepare your case and represent you in court.